I am in trouble.
I have actually become quite adept at getting in trouble.
And I am, at this moment, on a hot streak.
I’m that good.
I mean bad.
With whom does a middle-aged woman get into trouble, exactly? I’ll tell you. It’s her parents. All day long. Her parents.
I landed on my mom’s bad side when I told her to stop driving.
I mean, firmly on her bad side. My mom said I had been waiting for this moment. I had been eager for it. I was delighting in the power I wielded as confiscator of the car keys.
And who wouldn’t? The power in being the custodian of an octogenarian’s car keys is a level of control few people manage to achieve in life. Do you know how many boxes of tissues I now own? They were just there, in my mom’s car, for years. As if they were worthless. And now they’re mine. All mine.
The best part of this situation? Now I’m responsible for both getting my parents anywhere they need to go and bringing them everything they need. With neither of them driving, there really is no other option.
You haven’t lived until you are the only thing standing between a woman and her yogurt. It is, I imagine, what it feels like to summit Everest. Take the oath of office. Walk on the moon.
I wasn’t happy about taking the keys. Of course I wasn’t. Taking the keys is an adulting rite of passage few adults look to attain. I’m sure most parents resent the kid throwing down this particular gauntlet. But someone has to be the bad guy. And don’t we all root for the bad guy sometimes? Loki? Hannibal Lecter? Dexter?
I faced my mom’s anger like a wall faces a tornado. She yelled. She banged on the table. She impugned my mother, which was kind of funny because she is my mother.
Then she asked me to recycle her plastic bags.
I feel that a miscreant like me shouldn’t be restricted to plotting against one person. That kind of talent should be spread around. Like mulch. So I went to work on my dad.
My dad is an adorable, skinny old man. One thing about adorable, skinny old men is they tend to get skinnier. My dad is like the central character in Thinner. Except, you know, he hasn’t killed anyone.
The more weight he loses, the more his pants droop. I have seen his underwear more over the last year than I have over my entire life.
I don’t want to see my dad’s underwear. Even the power of being the sole arbiter of whether my mom has yogurt isn’t enough to erase that trauma.
I told him I would buy him new pants. Pants that stayed up. Pants that fit.
“No,” he said.
“No?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
I told him I didn’t want to see his underwear anymore.
He laughed. Like he’s the villain. You can’t laugh when you’re the good guy! Superman didn’t laugh. Indiana Jones didn’t laugh. Luke Skywalker didn’t laugh. But look at The Joker. Laughed all the time.
I bought those pants.
“I told you not to buy them,” my dad said. I just smiled to myself. What villain doesn’t love the feel of a gathering storm?
One morning last week, my dad grabbed the pants on his way to get dressed for our weekly breakfast date.
“I hope you’re happy,” he grumbled.
Oh yes, sir. I was happy.
“I won!” I said later, as my dad and I headed to my car.
“You didn’t win,” my parents’ neighbor snarled as she limped past me with her walker.
Wow. I must be getting good if I can be in trouble with a random neighbor, too.
I had to go for broke.
I had a family party to attend. I could – if I really tried – get in trouble at the party.
I really tried.
I really succeeded.
I got in trouble the moment I walked in the door. I mean as soon as I crossed the threshold.
Hot damn. Am I good or what?
I mean bad.
I’ll be honest here. I don’t know exactly why I was in trouble.
As best as I could determine, my husband was supposed to skip work – quit work? – to attend family parties, I should never see my in-laws on Thanksgiving, and I was not supposed to talk about bringing my mom her yogurt.
Reasonable complaints, all. It is the most heinous of humans who talks about her mom’s yogurt. As trouble goes, I had worked myself into Darth Vader territory. I mean, he annihilated a planet. I talked about yogurt. We’re basically equals.
Since trouble is just part of being a caregiver, it bears embracing. I mean, did Lex Luthor ever aspire to change his ways? Did The Penguin ever try to stop imitating evil flightless fowl?
Anthony Hopkins enjoyed being Hannibal Lecter. You must, he said, portray the villain “with humor.”
That’s why I talk about the yogurt.
When Susan Lucci finally won an Emmy for playing the scheming Erica Kane on All My Children, the entire auditorium jumped to its feet. That ovation lasted nearly two minutes.
I’d love to be that good.
So I’ll just continue being bad.